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The Sound

Guest Chris Sirn

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Guest Chris Sirn

Dumb in the dark.

"Who's there?"

In a fit of panic Jimmy crumpled the note he had been writing and hid it in his desk: He stared at the door, quiet as a library book. It looked out on a hall, his desk lamp the only light. He thought that he should lock the drawer, as he always did when he wrote "confidential papers," but where was the key?

He leaned forward to get a better look. What had he heard? Well, it was the strangest thing, but he could have sworn he heard voices outside his bedroom door. His parents weren't home, nor was anyone else. The voices were high-pitched, like laughter, except they weren't laughing but talking. Talking about him. He'd heard his name. He'd become acutely sensitive to the sound of his name after being yelled at by teachers these many years in high school. He looked in the mirror beside the door. He looked like a young man who was standing by a vampire's coffin just before sunset.

He shooed away the air in front of him—where marijuana smoke still lingered. The weed made him write better. It made everything better. But not really. He'd been trying to quit, but he'd allowed himself to smoke the last leaves because tonight was going to be an especially troubling night at his writing desk indeed, and wouldn't it be the damnedest thing if his last dance with Mary Jane was the one where he got caught?

It's not your parents out there.

His cell phone rang from the desk.

At first he ignored it, still investigating the disturbance that had interrupted his sleep of writing. He crept to the hall, crouched like a ninja, his heart pounding even harder: Had someone broken into his parents' house? He thought about his sister, asleep in her crib downstairs, and his blood pressure escalated off the charts: How could this be happening?

The phone continued to ring. Apparently someone really wanted to get a hold of him. Well, they would just have to wait. He couldn't worry about it now. Before he left the room, he grabbed a baseball bat from behind his bedroom door. To an onlooker this might seem extreme, maybe even a little silly, but it wasn't. He felt like every blood vessel in his body had constricted like a snake, the bat was cold in his sweaty hands, his cell phone marking time like a slow clock in a movie.

Be still, he thought. All ears. Like an elf in one of those books you read. Except it was difficult to hear anything with all that racket. Jeez, why hadn't he turned the damn thing off? And why did someone have to call now?

Should have locked that drawer. Damn.

He snuck into the dark, probably looking like a fool with his bowed legs and baseball bat pointing straight up in the air like a weapon in a book of fairytales. Outside, night had fallen, but the temperature had dropped steadily these past few hours-- the arctic weather had made a roaring return, said the weather lady, and they could expect the temperature to drop below zero with a wind chill reaching minus forty again. One of his parents' horses had died in the cold last month. He was too wild for them to catch, and Jimmy wasn't going to put a halter on that untamed beast. Jimmy had been outside for fifteen minutes to feed the animals and had caught a week-long cold. If he'd been outside much longer, he probably...

Wait. He heard something.

It was his sister, crying. He relaxed, then tensed as he realized what this could mean. He tried to hear "the sound" again, but whoever-it-was had made himself scarce. Or themselves. Or itself. But that was crazy talk. There was no such thing as ghosts. Bad news for him. Because that implied—

The child continued to holler. Probably had a nightmare, he thought sadly. He thought about the crumpled paper. He pushed the thought away. Now was no time for "all that stuff." In his bedroom, his phone stopped ringing. He had the mental image of a dozen horror movies where the dog gets strangled for trying to alert the babysitter.

He crept down the stairs...

He entered a dark living room. The dining room light was on. He wasn't certain, and he didn't think anyone could remember such things clearly, but he was fairly certain he hadn't left the light on. Meanwhile, the baby's wailing went on, like a siren. A chill went down Jimmy's spine: He wished he hadn't used that metaphor. But his heart, no his good one but his bad one, whose redeeming trait was it called things the way they were, said this simile was accurate. It also knew this time around, there was something more than a horse's life on the line. Because...

Because it wasn't the cold that killed the horse.

There. It was out. This was what he had been writing about: A confession to what happened that night last month when a horse had died during a sub-zero night, and what his father had found the next morning. His father hadn't told him, hadn't allowed him to look, but he had told his mother, and his mother had told a friend over the phone, and she'd caught Jimmy eavesdropping. She made him promise not to tell anyone "the secret," and he'd agreed, because the family didn't need that kind of attention, not after what happened to his father last year at work. And so Jimmy made his way through the living room now, through the dining room and down a dark hall where the nursery awaited (Why couldn't they have left a night light on? he thought) where the door was ajar. The wailing grew worse. And he was fairly certain there was someone in there. The police couldn't get here fast enough. The door was in front of him now. He took a deep breath and watched his pale hand push the door open.

He saw that his parents had left a night light on. It did little good. Gave out about as much light as a Jack-o-Lantern. Baby Isabella stood in her crib, dressed in her red Christmas pajamas, pointing one clad arm at the closet. By God, that girl has a healthy pair of lungs, Jimmy thought, and that was when it all went down. The man in the black robe and the black hood burst out of the closet, and the room was too small for Jimmy to get a good swing. The paper weight the intruder had been holding crashed down on Jimmy's head, sending him to the floor in a sprawled heap, arms and legs pointing absurdly in multiple directions and it was a miracle he didn't break a bone. His chin crashed against the baseball bat. His jaw screamed in agony. He saw stars. He felt the same dread he felt that day when he heard his mother tell the story of what his father had found behind the barn. It's the work of devil worshippers, his mother had said, and on that point Jimmy had agreed with her. They usually kept such stories out of the newspaper, partly because the subject was so gruesome, partly not to encourage copycats. This is them, he thought, then the boot crashed down on his head. He tried to protect himself but there was too many of them. All at once the room was full of angry voices shouting to their friends that this one had to die, and that was when the shadows pulled him down into the darkness and he knew no more.


Luna Poppendeck had been trying to reach her boyfriend for an hour, and she'd had enough. Her fancy sports car, the one she'd raised the money for herself these past several years, pulled into Jimmy's driveway, headlights slicing through the darkness. Her father, a senator in Washington D.C., would have a fit if he knew his little girl was dating someone like Jimmy... or anyone. She was here to focus on college and nothing else. Parties were out of the question, but this wasn't a party. This visit was in regard to some disturbing phone calls she'd received.

She knocked on the front door. Nothing. She knocked even harder. Banged her fists against it. When that didn't work, she almost barged her way inside, but that was when a sound interrupted her.

It was a horse. It stood staring at her from the pasture surrounding the barn, its head looming over the gate. It watched her with big eyes and perk ears pointed in her direction. It looked over its shoulder, towards the pasture behind the barn, then back at her. As if trying to tell her something. Luna shuddered.

""What is it, old boy?" she asked. She walked towards him. A shooting star streaked across the sky. The air grew colder. The horse motioned over his shoulder again, as if directing her.

She walked past the horse, her heart pounding. She wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, Jimmy often teased her, but he was one to talk. She didn't see any footprints in the snow and so had no reason to suspect foul play. But still...

"Hello?" she said. She stood with her feet panted awkwardly in the snow, bony knees trembling, tightening her coat around her like a shawl. Should have worn a hat, she thought. She plunged ahead, because she heard the sound again. An animal in pain. Somewhere in the darkness. Behind the barn.

She was there a minute later, but she found nothing. She stood in the pasture, the same spot where Jimmy's father had found the horse decapitated a month ago, and that was when the feeling of utmost terror swept over her. It was the blackest emotion she had ever felt, because it had no reference point, and just before the werewolf with the jagged teeth and the remains of its robe wrapped around it like a shroud emerged from its hiding place, Luna looked up at the new moon and wondered why bad luck had to follow her, why every guy she dated ended up dead.

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